I know it’s overwhelming. You are given all this new freedom and are pushed to get out of your comfort zone. Balancing extracurriculars, schoolwork, and partying is very tricky. Well, don’t worry, I’m here to give you 18 tips on how to survive your freshman year at TCNJ!
- Your Freshman year does matter (to a certain extent).
There’s always this idea that graduate schools and companies overlook your freshman year grades. This is true to a certain extent but the grades you have your freshman year can determine the track you follow throughout college. One bad semester can turn into two years of bad semesters and it’s hard to recover after that. Graduate schools understand that it’s a hard adjustment during your first semester at school, but your academic career is truly in your hands.
- Create a 4-year plan of all prerequisites to keep you on track.
I created a spreadsheet of all the courses I wanted to take for the next four years initially because I’m neurotic, but doing this has been a lifesaver! I’m rarely ever worried about what prerequisites I have left and I don’t panic once registration comes around. I also make sure to have backup courses–especially for courses that fill up very quickly. Having some flexibility in this plan will make your life ten times easier.
- Know which courses are “in season”.
This is especially important for STEM majors and people who take STEM classes but are in a different major. Certain courses automatically have students enrolled in them and fill up fast each semester. For example, BIO201 is in season during the Fall semester since that’s when many students are required to take it. Knowing this allows you to plan your semester accordingly and have backups if necessary.
- Try to complete your Writing 102 requirement early.
If you did not test out of this requirement, try to take this course as early as possible. Writing 102 classes fill up very fast so if you have the opportunity to take it, DO IT! If you can’t get into the course, it’s also totally normal to take it during your sophomore year.
- Use Google Calendar or Notion to keep track of all due dates and club meetings.
I absolutely love Google Calendar and Notion! Once I receive my syllabus, I input all my assignment dates and exams and add reminders for each of them. This way I know what’s due for the week and I am reminded of any long-term assignments due (very helpful for essays due a month after it’s assigned). If I had to choose though, I would pick Google Calendar because you have the app on many devices.
- Look at your department’s webpage to discover every opportunity the department provides.
Many opportunities like research labs, department events, and courses are advertised on the webpage. All the details of your major are also listed there in each newsletter.
- Note down the date registration opens so you can look at which courses are available early in the registration period.
This has helped me feel less flustered when my registration time comes. I can think about backup courses and figure out what my schedule is early on.
- RateMyProfessor is not always right.
Don’t get me wrong, this site has saved me from taking courses with horrible professors. However, there are a few courses I took where the professor reviews were inaccurate. Remember, people lie because of the grade they received or because the professor rubbed them the wrong way. Opinions are not universal!
- Try finding your textbooks online before you buy them.
There are many sites like LibraryGenesis and Z-lib that upload textbooks for free. Save yourself a lot of time and money and look at these sites first before you purchase.
- If you are a STEM or Psychology major, start thinking about research labs early so you can introduce yourself to those professors.
Labs are very competitive and most have an application process. The deadlines for this vary for each lab so you could miss opportunities if you were not aware of them. Each department has a list of their labs and most labs have their own website for information.
- Combine your Liberal Learning requirements.
There are a total of 9 liberal learning requirements divided into 3 Civic Responsibilities and 6 Broad Areas of Interest (excluding your CEL requirement). Many courses meet more than one Civic Responsibility and a Broad Area of Interest so you don’t have to take 9 separate courses. If you keep track of the courses that check multiple requirements, you’ll only have to take 3-4 courses.
- If your major requires an internship or co-op, plan that out accordingly.
Go to the career fair every semester and network! It’s better to get ahead of things so you don’t stress out later.
- Sign up for tutoring early!
Tutoring fills up very quickly and it’s better to sign up anyways because having help is always better than having no help. The Tutoring Center also matches you with a tutor who has taken the course with the same teacher.
- If you want to earn money during the semester and keep up with your grades, apply to be a DA.
Even though the shifts are late, you can get away with doing homework during the shift. Best way to make some money and get that 4.0.
- The loop bus can be your best friend.
It’s hard exploring off-campus your freshman year since you don’t have a car. The loop bus goes to Quakerbridge Mall, Nassau Park Pavilion, and Princeton. I made some of the best memories with my friends while taking the loop bus.
- The best time to do laundry in Travers & Wolfe is early in the morning, late at night, and between 12-3 pm.
The amount of times I have planned to do laundry and saw that all the washers and dryers were full has been too many times to count. Eventually, I learned that these times were best since most people are out of their dorms during this time.
- The friendships you make on your floor might not remain the rest of your college career.
Everyone always thinks the friends you make your freshman year are the friends you’ll have for the rest of college and maybe the rest of your life. This is not entirely true. Friends can drift apart when they do not see each other 24/7. Don’t be too worried about this though because it gives you opportunities to make other friendships.
- If you’re Pre-Med, Pre-PA, Pre-Law, or Pre-Dental, keep track of all the courses required by the schools you’re applying to.
Most post-graduate programs have specific requirements for their school in addition to the overall requirements for these types of programs. For example, many Pre-Med programs encourage students to take additional math or computer science courses. Knowing this information early will strengthen your application.